Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks on the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link

24 February, 2021


For the people of Warringah, traffic congestion along the north-south corridor to the city is an ongoing source of angst and frustration. The 2019 Infrastructure Australia report found it to be the fifth most congested road in the morning and the fourth most congested road in the afternoon in Greater Sydney. Many promises have been made at both state and federal level for the last 25 years. But we've been left with an archaic drawbridge built in 1952 that halts traffic numerous times a day and forces traffic from three lanes into one. After decades of community debate and suggestions of a rail link or a higher bridge, the Berejiklian state government finally committed to a tunnel, the Beaches Link tunnel, in 2017. Let's be clear, we don't want this important infrastructure 'done cheap and dirty', to quote a local resident. The people of Warringah have waited a long time and deserve a future-focused tunnel built to the highest standard. The long-awaited environmental impact study is currently open for consultation. It's a complex document, and significant concerns have been raised by numerous community groups that must be appropriately recognised and acknowledged and addressed by the New South Wales state government.

I wish to raise five central issues. First, there is the EIS process itself and the limited time for submissions. Consultation on a project of this size and significance must be done in good faith. It must be thorough and not rushed.

Second, great concerns have been raised about the impact during construction on the environment and the community, particularly in the sensitive ecological areas of Manly dam and the Garigal National Park, and the impact on local waterways, such as Burnt Bridge Creek and Middle Harbour. These need to be addressed.

The third area is the long-term environmental impacts of the project, particularly with regard to the placement of exhaust stacks and their lack of filtration. The New South Wales government's intention to pump unfiltered exhaust pollution into the atmosphere is, I would argue, reminiscent of old policies of pumping sewage into the ocean. We have demanded clean oceans; we must demand clean air. The fourth area of concern is ensuring this significant infrastructure project is future proof and prioritises public transport solutions.

Finally, the New South Wales Liberal government is committed to net zero emissions by 2050, so, accordingly, there must be a requirement for this project to utilise the lowest emissions technology available during construction and for there to be an offset by carbon sequestration projects. The New South Wales government must ensure that, throughout the construction process, methods and building materials and waste management are of the highest environmental standards. The information to date falls short of this. I have written to the minister and am awaiting a reply. We must get this right.